Institute for Corean-American Studies

Don Oberdorfer

Don Oberdorfer is Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Adjunct Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University's Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C. Previously, Don was a journalist for 38 years, including 25 years on the Washington Post. He is the author of five books. His most recent book is the biography of the late Senator and Ambassador Mike Mansfield, published by Smithsonian Institution Press in October 2003.

Oberdorfer is a native of Atlanta, Ga. Don graduated from Princeton University in 1952 and served as a U.S. Army lieutenant in Korea immediately following the signing of the armistice in 1953. Don began his journalistic career in 1955 on the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer and also worked for the Saturday Evening Post magazine and as national correspondent of Knight Newspapers. He joined the Washington Post in 1968 and covered the Nixon White House, Northeast Asia (based in Tokyo) and U.S. diplomacy, including 17 years as Diplomatic Correspondent before retiring from journalism in 1993.

Don is the author of thousands of newspaper articles on current affairs and dozens of magazine articles. His first book, Tet! (Doubleday, 1971; Da Capo Press, 1984; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), a political-military history of the turning point of the Vietnam War, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1971. It was republished in 1973, 1984 and most recently by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2001. His second book, The Turn: From the Cold War to a New Era, (Poseidon Press, 1991; Touchstone Press, 1992) was republished in expanded form in May 1998 by Johns Hopkins University Press under the title, From the Cold War to a New Era. His third work, Princeton University: The First 250 Years, was published by Princeton in 1995 to commemorate its 250th birthday.

His fourth book, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History, on the North-South struggle in Korea, was published in October 1997 by Addison-Wesley and subsequently in London, Seoul and Tokyo. The Japanese edition was awarded the 10th annual Asia-Pacific Book Prize. An updated edition was published by Basic Books in 2001.

Don has won many awards for journalistic excellence. He twice won the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for diplomatic correspondence (in 1981 and again in 1988.) He was also twice winner of Georgetown University's annual Edward Weintal prize for diplomatic reporting (in 1982 and 1993). Don served as a visiting professor at Princeton University in 1977, 1982 and 1986. In 1996 Princeton bestowed on him its Woodrow Wilson Award given annually to a graduate for exemplary service to the nation.

In 1994-96 Don was president of Overseas Writers, founded in 1921, a professional association of American and foreign journalists who focus on U.S. diplomacy in Washington. In 1986-9 he chaired the advisory committee of the Washington Center of the Asia Society. Don is a member of the Asia Society and the Council on Foreign Relations and currently is program chair of the Washington Institute on Foreign Affairs, an organization of retired senior U.S. diplomats, military officers and journalists.

He is married to the former Laura Klein, who recently retired as a language specialist at American University. They have two children, Dan, an attorney in Minneapolis, and Karen, a small business proprietor in the San Francisco Bay area.

ICAS Web Site Links for Don Oberdorfer:

The Korean Peninsula: Danger Ahead
2004 Winter Symposium

This page last updated 3/16/2004 jdb

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